Measure career advancement by blowing your mind
(1) I am not trying to sell you anything, (2) what I suggest here can amplify your very existence, and (3) whenever possible, you should soak some largesse from companies like Autodesk.
As I've said a few times in this space, if we know one thing about innovation and creativity, we know that it happens when you bring skills from one field to bear on another.
A few weeks ago, I spent an afternoon at Autodesk's shop on San Francisco's Pier 9 and witnessed magic, over and over again. If you think of engineering as a creative endeavor, then you are obligated by your own beliefs to apply for Autodesk's AIR (Artists in Residence) program. Autodesk, famous for its 3D printing technology and "maker" culture, has a program for which you should apply.
If you apply your engineering skills to a different category of problems, your genius will emerge. But that's not the real payoff. The big payoff comes after you've goofed around in Autodesk's lab for a few months, returned to Earth, and apply your new skills to your old job.
Artists in Residence is a four month program that provides $1500/month plus a budget for your project. Autodesk AIR will give you access to top-of-the-line shop equipment. Not just CRC mills and every type of 3D printer you can imagine, but water jet cutters, a complete wood shop, design software, colleagues from every background, as well as space and time to create. You will retain your intellectual property, though you will have to publish your designs and techniques and give a final presentation.
The day I was there, they also had gourmet food trucks, arcane cocktails, weird cheeses, and local microbrews.
Okay, maybe you’re thinking, "I’m an engineer, not an artist. Sure, I goof around in the garage on lots of projects, but art? An internship? I’m too old, I’m too young, I don’t have the experience, I have too much experience—"
"Wrong! You're perfect for this opportunity and they want you!"
Carl Bass, Autodesk’s CEO, is an engineer, too, and this program is his baby.
Don't worry about age, experience level, or background. I met AIRs who are end-of-career geezers and fresh out of college kids. The program is all about expanding experience.
I'm going to show you five projects. They don't span the infinite dimensions—from art to engineering, acoustics to luggage, carpentry to culinary—of what you can do as an AIR, but hopefully you’ll see how you can fit in.